If there’s one thing you can expect from Spotify’s Jemele Hill Is Unbothered, it’s a good-ass interview. Since its debut in 2019, she’s chatted with everyone from Spike Lee to Uncle Luke, treating her listeners to entertaining stories and enlightening conversations sprinkled with her signature charisma and wit.
In her latest episode, Hill is joined by White House correspondents Yamiche Alcindor (a 2020 The Root 100 honoree) and April Ryan to address the bright orange elephant in the room: Donald Trump and today’s election. The dynamic duo discusses what it’s like covering our Commander in Tweet, the significance of having Black journalists holding space in the presidential press corps, how they believe the election will play out, and a myriad of other topics of interest.
Ryan, who has covered four presidential administrations, noted the differences in how 45 conducts himself in comparison to other presidents.
“You watch a president’s body language,” she said. “That’s a part of your reporting: his mood, what he says, how he delivers it. And that tells you because it tells you where his mind is. But with this presence a little different—well, no, it’s a lot different than other presidents. I mean, this is just this president and how we cover it is so different. This presidency. And the way we cover is a polar opposite of the last three presidents that I’ve covered. It’s two extremes.”
In covering somebody as imbecilic and combative as our alleged president, it’s nearly impossible to do your job as a reporter without inevitably ending up in some type of confrontation. Alcindor and Ryan dished on those contentious moments, too.
“Well, I remember in the moment feeling like my ancestors are carrying me though, because I remember being very focused, very solid. I didn’t flinch,” Alcindor said. “And the way that I handle that is first by calling my mom and telling her, ‘Hey, calm down. You’re going to see some news clips of me.’ […] The whole family from Haiti is going to be calling, asking what happened and just chill out a bit. I think my mom gets a little worried because when you go viral, it can be scary for people involved, meaning that you can end up with a lot of hate online.”
“The sad piece about it is I’m just here to do a job,” Ryan said. “I didn’t sign up for this, but I’m here to do a job, but it’s not about me. It’s about the issue. It’s about the story. We are still a community with the highest numbers of negatives in almost every category. And before Yamiche came there, before a lot of people came there, I was the only one asking a lot of those questions and that’s sad. [...] Because of the history of me asking the questions about a community that they didn’t want to talk about raised their ire, they attacked me. They went after me personally, when it was about the story that they didn’t like, but they wanted to go after me—who is not from a larger network. Who didn’t have the infrastructure or the support system. They went after me in the worst kind of ways And the residue still lingers.
“This is something that I’m still dealing with emotionally, mentally, and physically. I had to move my physical home because of people not understanding civics, understanding this is the natural political back and forth. [...] I’ve had the bomb squad at my home. I’ve had to have bodyguards. [...] I honestly think that being Black is training ground for doing your job under duress.”
In all, Alcindor and Ryan provide a fascinating peek into the tremendous responsibilities that come with being tasked to cover the White House as a Black journalist.
You can hear the episode in its entirety on Spotify.